In Which Jenn Rides Roller Coasters With Her Eyeliner On Fleek

Pat and I took our annual pilgrimage to Busch Gardens last Sunday, and it was… something. Unfortunately the experience was not quite what it’s been in past years.

This is mostly not Busch Gardens’ fault: they can’t control the weather, after all. Sunday’s predicted high of 60 degrees never came to fruition, and while it was pleasant enough in the sun the park is largely designed to protect from summer’s heat, ie, there’s a lot of shade. I wore a thermal under a light jacket and a hat and I was still cold (also my hat wouldn’t stay on on the coasters; I performed a stunning catch on my first drop of the day). Pat even bought a long-sleeved shirt to compensate.

Which brings me to my next point: given the cold and wind, every roller coaster ride was an exercise in involuntary tears. I got off each coaster with temples streaking by high-speed teardrops. And yet my eyeliner did not budge – it’s Nyx Epic Ink and YOU SHOULD ALL GO BUY IT.
Wait, where was I? Oh yes, BGW. They can’t exactly control the crowds, either, and for some unknown reason there were a lot of people there this time around. I can’t quite figure this one out – we went on the exact same Sunday in October last year and it was maybe half as crowded. My best guess is some sort of local school sporting event or convention or some such. Anyway, lines were much longer than usual.

The last thing is on BGW though, and that’s the way they stagger land openings. Namely, they do it. Fine. WDW does it something similar sometimes too. But BGW doesn’t seem to have a strong handle on what “open” means. They seem to think letting people into an area at a designated time is enough. Actually having the corresponding rides open is optional.

Oh well. Next year we’ll take the day off and go on a Friday earlier in the season. That ought to fix 2 out of 3. And we still had a good time! We rode our favorite roller coasters (Verbolten, Griffon, and Apollo’s Chariot) multiple times and it was lovely.

We also got a chance to try out the new motion simulator ride, Battle for EireThis particular simulator is unique in that each rider uses a personal VR headset instead of everyone staring at the same movie screen (although you do have thought option if you’re not feeling the VR). 

To speed up the process, you wear the VR headset in two parts. First you’re given some very attractive headgear, which Pat and I will model for you now.

Sexy!

Once you’re seating in the ride, you attach your VR “goggles” to your headgear via magnet. You need to do a little adjusting to keep the goggles from tipping your headgear forward and making the focus out of whack, but I didn’t have too much trouble.

Sadly, once the novelty wore off I wasn’t all that into the ride. The graphics aren’t bad, but they aren’t good either; I got a decidedly N64 vibe, if that, although allegedly it’s all in HD. I wonder if the projected 2D version was better. I did enjoy the VR aspect of twisting my head around to view different parts of what I can only assume was at least 180 degrees worth of world (I’ll have to turn my head all the way around next time and see if there’s anything happening behind me).

The VR aspect kinda shoots the ride in the foot in that the developers seemed to assume that it can do a lot of the heavy lifting as far as motion is concerned, too. I know some previous shows have been accused of being too herky-jerky, but I barely felt a lot of the movements. At one point I was on the back of a freakin’ dragon and hardly felt like I was going anywhere at all.

More damningly, the story was pretty weak. You’re accompanying fairy Addie on a mission to save the Heart of Ireland from the bad guy, according to the preshow. It’s a pretty basic good-vs-evil plot, which is fine, but it’s thinly drawn and the climax is extremely cheesy. 

In conclusion: I miss the show from two versions back, Corkscrew Hill. What can ya do.

We skipped hitting up any of the bars this time around and left before Howl-o-Scream even started because it was just SO COLD and crowded. Cold and empty, sure; warm and crowded, I can deal. But cold and crowded is no good.

That’s okay – BGW is a great park and we have a better plan for next year. I would recommend it to anyone in the area. Ride Apollo’s Chariot on repeat and enjoy!

Have you been to Busch Gardens Williamsburg? Have you ridden Battle for Eire? What are your thoughts?

Don’t forget, you can follow FRoA on Twitter @fairestrunofall. If you have any questions or thoughts, leave a comment or email fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!

In Which Jenn Kills A Bug With Her Face At Busch Gardens Williamsburg


After the physical difficulty of the Baltimore Marathon, my quads and Achilles were shot. Naturally I chose to spend my Sunday traipsing all over Busch Gardens Williamsburg.


WORTH IT.

Honestly it was probably good for me to keep myself moving and stretch out my muscles, and anyway we had an awesome time. And with a half price Groupon, why not?

BGW, for those unfamiliar, is themed to the various countries of Europe (mostly; New France, how’d you get here, eh?). The entry area is England (the “Main Street USA” if you will) followed by a Scotland hub. It was here I enjoyed the highlight of the whole day: I PET A BORDER COLLIE. Her name was Daisy and she was the sweetest and YES I would love an amusement park that was nothing but cuddly animals please build that for me.

But after our snuggly pitstop in the Highland Stables it was time to get down to the real business of BGW: the roller coasters. As soon as the lands opened we hightailed straight to the park’s newest coaster, InvaDR. A hybrid wooden/steel coaster, this was… only okay, frankly. It was neither particularly swoopy nor speedy nor elaborately themed. After one ride we wandered off…

… And over to France for Pat’s favorite coaster in the park and possibly the world, Griffon. It’s a dive coaster with a vertical drop of over 200 feet, and riding in the front row is mandatory. 

Next up was Apollo’s Chariot, my favorite coast in the park (but not the world). This coaster is so smooth and full of air time that riding it is almost soothing. I love the bunny hops at the end!

Finally we took a couple spins on Verbolten, the most Disney-esque ride in the whole park if you ask me. It’s barely more than a kiddie coaster but the queue is elaborately themed and the coaster itself features a show building with a vague storyline.

It’s kinda crazy how slow it was in the off season – by noon we’d taken multiple rides on all the coasters we cared about. We spent the remainder of the afternoon wandering around, poking around in shops, having a couple drinks at the pirate bar in the Italy area, and occasionally taking in an additional coaster ride.

We had lunch at the Squire’s Grille, which seems to largely fly under the radar. The fare is simple – burgers and chicken nuggets and the like – but honestly it was better than any of the Festhaus or Trapper’s Smokehouse offerings. If you’re just looking to get some food in you with a minimal wait, I’d highly recommend it.

The Howl-O-Scream crowd started rolling in around 2pm, so we took in some shows instead. The More Pet Shenanigans show was cute and of course the animals were adorable, but the acting was pretty cringey. I wish they didn’t act at all. 

As for the new predator show, it’s… largely the same, if you ask me. They’ve rearranged things a bit and the dialogue’s been tweaked but, again, ENOUGH WITH THE ACTING. Just present the animals already! 

We were both pretty tired by that point and Pat wanted to go grocery shopping that night, so above my feeble protests he led me out around 5pm. So we missed all the Howl-O-Scream stuff. But I hate haunted houses so whatever. If we go again next year I’d like to check out some of the Terror-tories, though.

This is the fourth time I’ve recapped a day at BGW on this blog, and I worry sometimes that it’s all too repetitive to be worth posting. And I rarely have many pictures because of BGW’s no bags on rides policy; my phone (and everything else) is shoved in my bra most of the day.

I knew going in if I wanted to do a post I’d need to find an interesting hook, but before I could even really get any ideas going it happened for me:

It was our second ride on Griffon. As we surged down that first, massive drop something hit me in the teeth and lip and then just hung there. The coursing wind quickly blew it off but I was bothered the whole rest of the ride – what WAS that? 

Pat was quite convinced it was a bug. Okay, that’s a story of sorts in an of itself. But it got much more interesting when we noticed on subsequent rides that there are wasps ALL OVER the track of the first hill. So PROBABLY I killed a wasp WITH MY FACE.

And we all know what that means: I AM JUST LIKE FABIO.



Have you ever been to Busch Gardens Williamsburg? Have your ever killed a bug with your face?

Don’t forget, you can follow us on Twitter @fairestrunofall. If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or email us at fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!

In Which Jenn Goes Back To Busch Gardens Williamsburg

This blog assumes two items:

  1. All amusement parks are, to varying degrees but with utmost certainty, inferior to Disney parks.
  2. They are still fun.

Therefore when a Groupon popped up for Busch Gardens Williamsburg about three hours south of us, Pat and I jumped at the chance. We’ve been there before and nothing has changed since then, but I thought a recap would still be fun.

Quick background for those who aren’t familiar: Busch Gardens is mostly themed to western Europe, with the park divided into France, England, Scotland, Ireland, Germany, and, for some inexplicable reason, New France aka Canada. (Plus a couple kids areas but I haven’t checked those out in several decades, so.) It’s a giant step up from your average Six Flags in quality but the majority of the rides do tend to be more thrill-based than story-based.

First, two things we did NOT do that may surprise you: the roller coasters Alpengeist and Loch Ness Monster. Alpengeist is only okay; Loch Ness Monster is a jolty ’70s coaster that does not rise above its age. If you’ve never ridden either, by all means do, as roller coasters can be very personal. But since we’ve done both we elected to skip them in favor of more rides on the coasters we LOVE.

And what coasters do we love? APOLLO’S CHARIOT! Swoopy, swoopy, swoopy, with a satisfyingly long track. The name of the game here is airtime, with some fun bunny hops at the end. Also, this is the coaster on which Fabio was hit in the face with a goose, so enjoy that.

GRIFFON! If you’ve ridden Sheikra at Busch Gardens Tampa, I understand you’ve ridden the same ride: the first drop is 205 and VERTICAL. We waited the extra time each ride to in the very front row because this is a rare case where ride experience is definitely affected by position. When they hang you over the edge of the first drop and make you think about it, looking straight down the track is absolutely glorious. The drop is smooth and fast and awesome. Don’t be afraid!

VERBOLTEN! Okay, I love this one more than Pat does, but he still enjoys it. The track itself has two fun slingshot accelerations and the surprise in the middle, and everyone loves a roller coaster in the dark, but it’s the themeing that really does it for me. I love that the designers took the time to tell a story, beginning with the car rental and botany lab of the queue, all the way through the blacklit show building and sound effects. This to me is the most Disneyesque thing in the park.

Only bad thing about this coaster: because of all the programming involved in the show building’s effects, it has a tendency to go down a lot. We had to come back three times to ride it successfully. At one point we were in the loading area when it broke down. Luckily we hadn’t been waiting too long, but it’s something to keep in mind when planning your day. Try to get this one in as early as possible.

You could argue that Curse of Darkastle, being a dark ride, is pretty Disney-ish too. I would liken it more to Universal’s Spiderman ride, myself, although frankly not as well executed. It’s got the whole dark ride sets plus 3D effects going on, but the story of Mad King Ludwig and his victims isn’t cohesive. Mind you, I remember riding this back in 2005 when it opened and they used to hold you in a room before you hit the load area to watch an explanatory backstory video. They now just have those doors open, and if you happen to walk through while the video is playing, you see it – if not, you don’t. I’m sure line flow is helped by this decision, but I’m not sure the audience gets the full experience without the video.

We also rode one more coaster, Tempesto: it is short and suffers for it. What ride time you get is fun but it’s basically over before it starts: forward, back, forward, up, over, done. Pat pointed out the entire experience would be improved if you repeated those motions but backwards. As it is I wouldn’t wait more than 5 minutes for it.

I think the only other thing we rode is the skyride, which isn’t going to blow any minds but it’s a fun throwback.

Then of course there is the predator show (ME: “Can we see the predator show?” PAT: “Do they own that franchise?”). There’s some hokey acting but the animals are ADORABLE. The fox might be my favorite.

We were there for Howl-O-Scream, Busch Gardens’ Halloween event, but did not tour any haunted houses as Pat much prefers roller coasters and I much prefer not having a nervous breakdown. We did walk through a couple scare zones; these I tend to enjoy as the scares are less direct and the open spaces keep me from feeling trapped.

The Wendigo Woods scare zone took over New France, the idea being that some military science department had, I don’t know, built a wendigo? Trapped one? It wasn’t clear. Mostly there was an audio-animatronic “wendigo” animal in a cage with piped in screams (why? It’s caged…). The real “scares” came from guys in blue camo outfits and helmets, who would do things like shout in a bullhorn, snap a clipboard at you, or drag some sort of load metal something at your feet. More startling than anything.

On our last Griffon ride we could see a winged, demonic DJ (whom we affectionately referred to as “DJ Satan”) from the top of the first hill, but he had vanished by the time we hit the demon scare zone. I hope he’s okay.

I would’ve liked to walk through a few more but Pat’s been having recurring hip trouble and it was bothering him, so we headed out instead. On our way we walked through the Jack the Ripper scare zone at the entrance to the park. I’m not clear if Jack himself ever shows up; mostly it seems to be zombie Victorians. One nifty trick I hadn’t noticed during previous trips: headless Victorian ladies. I tried to take a pic but it was dark and I was walking which is why it sucks.

A couple notes on food and drink: food is only okay, with most of it being kinda heavy; BGW has not caught up to WDW for options. France does have crepes, which is nice, and Festhaus has sausage. Trappers Smokehouse has the same kids meals as everybody else BUT they also have waffle fries. The turkey leg place right outside Trappers yields Pat’s favorite turkey legs OF ALL TIME, and he fancies himself quite the connoisseur.

In addition to mazes, BGW offered some escape room experiences, which were intriguing but we never got around to it/didn’t want to pay extra. Right next to it, however, was a bar, which had some good fruity mixed drinks. We also had some hurricanes at the pirate bar in Italy. Both places served our drinks in souvenir light up glasses, but as we had nowhere to store them and didn’t feel like walking them back to the car we ended up chucking them.

Speaking of not having anywhere to store stuff: like Universal Studios, BGW will no longer allow you to bring any kind of bag with you through the line. You have to store things in a locker, which, unlike Universal, is not free. You can rent a locker individually, or you can get a $5 transferable locker pass. Unlike Universal, at no point does BGW require you to go through a metal detector halfway through the line, so I elected to use my tried and true Sports Bra Storage method. More on this in a later post.

Advice if you live in the BGW area but far enough away that it’s a bit of a haul: don’t get up early and drive in the morning of. Get a hotel. There are lots of cheap ones in the area, and you do NOT want to deal with DC-VA traffic, especially if it’s a workday. That’s what we did, and we awoke rested and ready to roll. Totally worth the money.

I hope to be back next year – they’re building a new wooden coaster! (Maybe even during the regular operating season; I haven’t seen that German Festhaus show in forever and I miss it.)

Have you been to Busch Gardens Williamsburg? If you go, can you confirm the health of DJ Satan?

Don’t forget, you can follow us on Twitter @fairestrunofall. To see how our training is going, check out Jenn’s dailymile here and Moon’s dailymile here. If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or email us at fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!

In Which Jenn & Elizabeth Visit Kings Dominion

A couple weeks ago Elizabeth and I went to Kings Dominion in Doswell, VA, to run a 5K and 10K, respectively. Our race fee included park admission in the price, so we stayed on post-race to ride some coasters. Here are our thoughts on the experience.



JENN: Ready to talk about Kings Dominion?

ELIZABETH: Yes!

JENN: Was it your first time there? It was mine!

ELIZABETH: I think I was there once as a small child? I seem to have a vague memory, but nothing stands out, so it might as well have been!

JENN: The nice thing about running a race through the park first was that it gave me a primer of what rides were available. For example, I might not have otherwise noticed the Boo Blasters. Since that’s one of the few non-coaster things we rode, want to do that one first?

ELIZABETH: Sure! So that’s one of those rides where you have a laser gun and shoot at targets.

JENN: It’s kinda like Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin.

ELIZABETH: I really liked that fact that the targets actually responded when you shot them

JENN: Ha, that was indeed different.

ELIZABETH: I DID have a broken gun the second time, which sucked because then I couldn’t activate any of the ghosts.

JENN: It was actually a bit intense for a kid’s ride, though, if you ask me. It’s themed to a haunted house, and while nothing’s really actively scary, a couple scenes are a little much for a small child, I’d think. I’m specifically thinking of the skeleton army room where the lights go off and their eyes start flashing at you in strobe.

ELIZABETH: Oh yeah, that would have been creepy for a kid I think. I’m not sure how I would have reacted as a kid, but I think having a gun would have helped (i.e. I can fight back!).

JENN: I’m trying to think if we did any other non-coasters and nothing’s coming to mind? We were going to do the swinging ship but it started raining. They also have a water park section but it wasn’t open yet so no opinions.

Alrighty then! On to the roller coasters! Let’s start alphabetically and also with my favorite: Backlot Stunt Coaster!

ELIZABETH: That was definitely the best one. It’s a small coaster that’s themed like you’re in a stunt car for a movie shoot. It also launches you, which was fun and caught me by surprise both times we rode it. It was originally themed for The Italian Job, right?

JENN: Yup! Now it’s just generic stunts, but it’s definitely the most themed of the coasters here. After the launch and some swoops, you stop and there’s fire and a helicopter!

ELIZABETH: The fire felt really good because it was COLD.

JENN: It’s a family coaster, but it’s got some fun thrills and I enjoy themeing. I’m pro!

ELIZABETH: I agree.

JENN: Okay, next… Flight of Fear. This disappointed me. It’s an indoor coaster touted as being in the pitch black but really it’s only in the dark… ish. Also there was a weird, I don’t know, construction site set up at the bottom of the building that was lit up but not relevant? Unless aliens are into, like, random tables and stuff.

ELIZABETH: Yeah. It’s like it was trying to be Space Mountain and failed. I mean, it’s worth riding once if the line isn’t long. But it was odd, and felt weirdly half-finished. I also don’t remember being impressed with the track that much. Space Mountain has those fun dips that take you by surprise in the dark, but we didn’t really get that. It was just a spiral downward. Sorry I keep comparing it, but that’s my only reference point!

JENN: Ah, yes, that is correct.

ELIZABETH: And there was the weird entrance area where it looked like it was going to be alien themed, and then was not. Slipshod at best.

JENN: Shall we do Grizzly next? Was that the really aggressive one? One of the wooden coasters was much jostle-y-er than the other. Wait, that might have been Rebel Yell. I think Rebel Yell was the wooden coaster that was trying to murder me.

ELIZABETH: Yes, I think it was the other one that felt more intense to me, but I could be

JENN: Well, let’s do both. Rebel Yell: it’s trying to kill you!

ELIZABETH: Haha, yes. So it was rough like your average wooden coaster is.

JENN: Yeah, but Grizzly was LESS rough. Rebel Yell had a stop so sudden it felt liked being stabbed in the uterus. Might be because in addition to the trestles, the track was also wooden.

ELIZABETH: But it’s pretty long and goes through the woods, which was nice.

JENN: Whatever. I DO NOT APPRECIATE UTERUS ATTACKS.

ELIZABETH: Yeah man. A lot of the rides there seemed to have sudden stops to me.

JENN: Grizzly was a bit gentler, but otherwise I don’t think either was distinct from the other. Wooden. Varying levels of aggressive. Straight drops.

ELIZABETH: I always found wooden coasters less intimidating as a child, so they might be good for the younger set who aren’t sure about loops yet.

JENN: Back to modern metal. I think Volcano was the last one we did? Toward the end of the day it got more crowded AND started raining, which curtailed our riding. Anyway, Volcano was my second favorite after the stunt coaster. The vertical bit out of the volcano is fun! Although Pat misremembered it as being a vertical launch and I’m still a little sad it wasn’t. We did it twice.

ELIZABETH: Yes! Another launching coaster, which I personally like (none of that “waiting to ride to the top” business). I’m sure a vertical launch is harder to engineer but it’s a fun ride as it is!

JENN: I think that wraps up the rides we did. What did you think of the ambiance? I thought it was a step up from Six Flags, but not at Hersheypark level. Close, but not quite. Nowhere near Busch Gardens Williamsburg, can’t touch Universal, and not worth 1/100th of a Disney park, OBVIOUSLY, but then that tends to be the case.

ELIZABETH: I’d give it a solid…B? It was a little odd seeing all the rides that USED to have themeing but no more. The Peanuts area with the kids rides was cute.

JENN: It was! It does have a pretty robust kid’s section. The park is divided into lands but there’s no cohesive overarching theme so it doesn’t mean much.

ELIZABETH: Yeah, and we got turned around a lot, but then again we hadn’t been there before.

JENN: Ha, well, that’s ’cause we’re us. Remember that time we walked allllllll the way around Universal Studios in the wrong direction?

ELIZABETH: Yeah….

JENN: One thing I can say with confidence is that the food is more expensive than even WDW’s. I mean, $16 for a barely even lackluster chicken sandwich with a soda and fries? Not even Disney would stoop that low (yet).

ELIZABETH: Ah yeah, the food was a disappointment. The meal I got was much smaller than the picture indicated (not that other places don’t do that, but it’s still a black mark). And I did splurge on a beer, and I don’t even remember how much it was because I’ve blocked the memory, but it was ridiculously overpriced.

JENN: Yeah, I think it was like $11 for a Yuengling or something like that.

ELIZABETH: Some of the other rides we didn’t do looked pretty good – the pirate ship (which goes upside-down!), the swing ride, the Crypt ride. I have a weird thing about swing rides where they make me nervous though. I’m weird.

JENN: Hey, I’m terrified of haunted houses. We’ve all got stuff.

Sorry we didn’t do more at the park! We were tired and kinda cold and by the afternoon a bunch of people had showed up so the lines got longer and THEN we were in line for the wild mouse coaster and it got shut down due to rain so we were like the hell with it, let’s go home.

On that happy note: any final impressions about your first real Kings Dominion Day?

ELIZABETH: I’m glad I went! They have some good roller coasters and I’d go back, but it’s not quite up the the level of Hersheypark or Busch Gardens.

JENN: I agree on all counts. Thanks for helping with my recap!  😁

ELIZABETH: Glad to help!

Don’t forget, you can follow us on Twitter @fairestrunofall. To see how our training is going, check out Jenn’s dailymile here and Moon’s dailymile here. If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or email us at fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!

In Which Jenn Returns To Busch Gardens Williamsburg

Hello, humans! Last Sunday Pat and I ventured to Busch Gardens Williamsburg for their last regular operation day of the year. Elizabeth and I covered this park a couple years ago, but since it’s been awhile I figured I’d pop in with my impressions. Let’s roll.

Step one: always try to go on a gloomy, slightly rainy day. This, combined with it being the day after Halloween and a Sunday, meant that we walked on to almost everything. It was awesome.

Know before you go: Busch Gardens is similar to Universal Studios in that it does not permit you to bring any kind of bag or unsecured items into line with you. Unlike Universal, there are no free lockers, although if I remember correctly the fees are fairly low. Also unlike Universal, however, there are no metal detectors, and you can bring your phone and such with you if you’ve got to firmly attached to your person. I employed my very sexy plastic-bag-pinned-inside-my-sports-bra method of phone and credit card storage and it worked just fine.

For Pat and me the priority was 100% roller coasters. Our first stop was at one of my favorites, Apollo’s Chariot. The first hill is pretty intense and is not for the faint of coaster heart, but your reward for braving it is a LOT of super-swoopy air time. It’s also a pretty long ride, so if you do find yourself facing a line the payoff is decent.

Not so for the newest coaster, Tempesto, which is right next door. Don’t get me wrong, it was fun, but it lasted all of 40 seconds. It features some unique boomerang-style action where you zoom back and forth along the same bit of track, but it’s not so revolutionary that I’d wait a long time for it – and since only a single train can ever be operational, lines are bound to get ridiculous on a busy day.

From there we hit Verbolten, which I LOVE. In fact, despite its relatively tame ride experience, it may well be my favorite ride in the park. It features themeing and backstory that, while not quite up to Imagineering standards, come darned close to Disney style. And the little bit of a trick track? SO MUCH FUN to surprise people with. (Unless you’re with Pat, who’s like, “I kinda thought that would happen when we [redacted due to spoilers].” Savvy people are no fun.)

On to Alpengeist! Has this coaster gotten more boring or is it just me? It’s got a lot of rolls and loops, but the drop is nothing. Boring. Rattly, too. Next!

Ah, but Griffon. Griffon is a dive coaster, a veritable clone, if I understand correctly, of Sheikrah (or whatever) in BG Tampa. The main drop is totally vertical, and they dangle you over the edge and let you ponder your life decisions before you fall. Sounds scary, but it’s actually a very smooth ride. Highly recommended, but make sure you get in line for the front row; you just don’t get the same experience otherwise.

Last and, well, least: the Loch Ness Monster. The first and possibly only coaster with interlocking loops, this coaster is old and a little rough therefore. The tunnel feature is fun but otherwise it’s prety no-frills: drop, loop, tunnel, drop, loop, done. Eh.

We also rode a few non-coaster rides, including the sky ride (Pat lamented its passing at Disney parks), the spinning swing ride (if it rains, DEAR GOD WATCHING FOR FALLING WATER WHEN YOU TILT), and Curse of DarKastle, a 3D-film-plus-dark-ride that I found a lot more impressive ten years ago, but whatever. If you’re curious: it’s like Universal’s Spider-Man ride, only with Mad King Ludwig. Since the ride was a walk on, we missed the explanatory backstory movie in the pre-show room, and Pat noted that without it the story line is pretty disjointed. Some neat effects, though.

All the water rides were shut down for the season, including Roman Rapids, the Le Scoot log flume, and the Escape from Pompeii “splash down” ride. Nothing has replaced Europe in the Air in Ireland, sadly (RIP, Corkscrew Hill.) Additionally, all the shows had been temporarily displaced by Howloscream shows. We caught the end of the Casket Club revue in Das Festhaus and I found it to be about the same as last time. I wouldn’t go out of my way to see it but it’s reasonably entertaining if you’re there to eat anyway.

Speaking of eating: we didn’t get a whole lot in the way of food, but here goes: pretzel sausage is bland; pretzel nuggets are buttery but charging extra for even a single sauce is mean; sometimes you get your coffee free if it’s the last day of the season and the till is broken; you can get a Disney-esque turkey leg in French Canada and according to Pat it’s amazing; the turkey sandwich in Das Festhaus is only okay but the house-made paprika chips are a nice touch.

We skipped most of the other shows, including the famous Fiends (PUT ON SOME CLOTHES, HOT GUY), but we did stay for the most important one: The Secret Lives of Predators! The demonstration is short and the acting is kinda dumb, but the animals showcased are ADORABLE. There was a rat, a buzzard, my buddy Cupid the barn owl, a Harris hawk, the world’s most eager fox, and of course a wolf (we had Odin). Pat and I were unable to reconcile our beliefs on Cupid; he feels strongly that barn owls are terrifying-looking while I think they are the cutest type of owl currently provided by Mother Nature. If we ever break up, this will no doubt be the catalyst.

Unfortunately due to scheduling restraints and generally tiredness we had to leave the park at 4pm, a disheartening six hours before closing. It wasn’t too bad, though – we’d knocked out every ride we’d wanted to hit and were escaping just as the Howloscream crowds were starting to show up. I’m a little bummed to have missed the scare zones, which are often nifty and atmospheric, but NOT AT ALL UPSET to have bypassed the haunted houses. Once is enough for me on that front.

This was Pat’s first trip to BGW. His thoughts? “Worth driving the extra hour past Kings Dominion. [Me: I’ve never been to Kings Dominion.] Don’t bother. This is way better.”

So yeah! I don’t know if I’d make a massive trip to Busch Gardens by itself, but if you’re in the area it’s definitely a huge step up from your average Six Flags-or-similar experience. And it might be worth a longer trip if you’d be into nearby Colonial Williamsburg and battlefields. If you do go – take me with you!

Have you been to Busch Gardens Williamsburg? What are your thoughts?

Don’t forget, you can follow us on Twitter @fairestrunofall. To see how our training is going, check out Jenn’s dailymile here and Moon’s dailymile here. If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or email us at fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!

In Which Jenn & Elizabeth Have A Great Adventure

Elizabeth and I recently went to Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, New Jersey. While this comes nowhere close to a whiff of a whisper of a shadow of hanging out a WDW, I thought you might like to hear about our experiences anyway. And now here we are!

JENN: Please welcome back the World’s Greatest Traveling Companion, Elizabeth!

ELIZABETH: So, where should we start?

JENN: Remind me again how you found out about Six Flags Great Adventure?

ELIZABETH: Well I think I had been researching the best amusement parks, and Great Adventure came up as one that had a lot of roller coasters, and you mentioned that your grandmother lived close by. And since I’d never been there, it seemed like a good idea.

JENN: So I’m thinking we’ll start with Safari Off Road Adventures, since we did that first?

ELIZABETH: Sounds good!

JENN: When I was a little kid, this was one of those drive-through safaris, but it was recently revamped into something not until Kilimanjaro Safaris at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

ELIZABETH: Yes, I can only imagine that was their inspiration.

JENN: The main difference, I’d say, is the lack of theme. That is to say, Kilimanjaro Safaris is set up so that you only see portions of Africa. SORA goes all over the globe.

ELIZABETH: Including North America! There were bears! Asian bears too, if I remember correctly.

JENN: Yup! Black bears and brown bears.Fun fact: black bears can be dark blue. Also, lions and tigers. So: the trifecta.

ELIZABETH: And there’s a station in the middle of the ride where you can get off and feed giraffes. There was a lion cub at the station that was completely adorable.

JENN: Ah, yes, that’s another difference. There’s a stop-over in the middle. They also had a bunch of snakes and lizards. Unfortunately the giraffe feeding was an upcharge.

ELIZABETH: We saw an anteater trying to escape! He was so cute.

JENN: Ah, yes, that too! How would you say it compares to Kilimanjaro Safaris overall?


ELIZABETH: Hmm, well, the transitions were less seamless than Kilimanjaro, but I did really like the opportunity to stop and look at animals at my own pace for a while. I’d say SORA was more education-based, while Kilimanjaro might be more fun more kids with the plotline about capturing poachers and such

JENN: Oh, they’ve tossed the poacher plot line since you were last there. I can’t say I mind.

ELIZABETH: Oh really? Did they replace it with anything?

JENN: Nah, you’re just looking at animals. It’s awesome.

One unfortunate thing about SORA by comparison, though, is that there isn’t the same level of naturalism that Kilimanjaro provides. Fences and barriers are obvious, although enclosure sizes were pretty decent. I guess you need WDW money to recreate environments so perfectly.

Shall we move on to the main event? Namely, roller coasters?

ELIZABETH: Yes! The main event! Sometimes I think I should spend more time on other rides at amusement parks, but then I remember how awesome roller coasters are.

JENN: Exactly!

ELIZABETH: So, I think the first one we did was the Runaway Mine Train?

JENN: Correct. Not much to this one, although that makes it great for newbies. I’d say it’s more intense than Big Thunder Mountain Railroad but much less intense than Expedition Everest.

ELIZABETH: If I remember correctly, they said it was the first roller coaster at the park, and it made a good starter since there aren’t any loops and it’s quite gentle.

JENN: Indeed. Ultimately a good time but perfectly skippable if you’re in a hurry.

Next up: Bizarro. This used to be called Medusa, which I still maintain is wrong. Roller coasters and ships should not be renamed. A pretty good coaster, though. Nice swoopy drop. Interesting fire effect.

ELIZABETH: Yes! I had forgotten about the fire so it was a bit of a surprise for me.

JENN: I believe El Toro was next? Theme Park Insider polled this as the #1 coaster in America, and while I wouldn’t call it my personal ultimate favorite, I can definitely see why.

ELIZABETH: Yeah, I would definitely rank it near the top for wooden roller coasters (which I often find too rough). It was nice and fast, unlike a lot of other wooden roller coasters that feel more leisurely.

JENN: Well, it was a hybrid – the track itself was metal, which is what allows for such a steep first drop angle. The first couple of drops in succession were amazing – very intense. You didn’t get any recovery time between.

ELIZABETH: It’s definitely a good one for raising your arms and feeling the drops.

What was our next one after that?

JENN: Nitro, yes?

ELIZABETH: I think so!

JENN: We were going to do Skull Mountain but it was down briefly so we did Nitro instead. Nitro was my favorite!

ELIZABETH: Yes! That was another good one, for mostly the same reasons as El Toro.

JENN: It reminded me of Apollo’s Chariot at Busch Gardens Williamsburg – very swoopy with lots of airtime.Each drop kinda propelled you into the next and made you hang there a bit before you dropped again. Love that!

ELIZABETH: That momentary feeling of weightlessness is the best part for me. So Nitro gets top marks.

JENN: I think we did manage to do Skull Mountain next? It was okay. Kinda like Space Mountain without all the stuff that makes Space Mountain awesome. You know. Lighting. Effects. More than a couple minor twists.

ELIZABETH: Hahaha, the mismatched theming was oddly adorable. There was a bizarre pumpkin Halloween thing at the end, which clashed horribly with the Indiana Jones theme of the outside I thought.

JENN: Yeah, whoever designed it wasn’t really sure what they were going for. It’s an okay ride, especially for beginner riders. For everyone else I say: eh. Skip.

ELIZABETH: Agreed.

JENN: Next up is Green Lantern, which I found disappointing. The concept – you stand up during the ride – is nifty. The execution is spotty. Once the novelty of standing wore off I found myself underwhelmed. It was short and really kinda tame.

ELIZABETH: I think it would have been more impressive if the coaster itself had been more interesting. But yes, there was a loop and a couple inversions, but nothing exciting

JENN: Absolutely. On the other hand, I found Superman, which you ride lying down, to be more interesting, largely because of a better track. It wasn’t anything major but the combination of a simulated flight position and nice smooth drops made it fun.

ELIZABETH: And you can’t see where you’re going, which is different.

JENN: Haha, yeah – I had pretty much no idea where we were headed the entire time! The bit where we looped and flipped onto our backs was interesting.

ELIZABETH: I personally found it made me nervous having all my weight on the shoulder straps, but yes, that was fun.

JENN: K, that brings us to our final ride: KINGDA KA.

ELIZABETH: Which, while awesome, took waaaay too long to wait for.

JENN: We waited in one helluva line for that thing but I think it was worth it for a first and only ride.

ELIZABETH: Although we did get to watch people get dropped off Zumanjaro while we waited.

JENN: Which is as close to a drop tower as I intend to get, thanks. At least the Tower of Terror has other distinguishing features.

ELIZABETH: Yes, it looked too intense for me.

JENN: Kingda Ka is, however, pretty amazing. Much less intimidating than it looks, which is nice.

ELIZABETH: How fast is it supposed to take you?

JENN: 128 mph in 3.5 seconds when you first launch.

ELIZABETH: It ripped the bobby pins out of my hair!

JENN: I don’t know how much that speed depreciates when you go up the hill, but you go down the other side in a 418 ft series of spirals. By the time you get up there, though, you’re already going so fast that there’s no real bodily impact. So I was just like WHEEEEEEE!

ELIZABETH: Yeah, I hardly felt the drop really.

JENN: The most anxious part of the entire thing for me was briefly thinking your glasses were trying to escape from my pocket. Incidentally, if you wear glasses, take ’em off and secure ’em before you ride.

ELIZABETH: Ah yes, I’m sorry I had to do that to you

JENN: No worries! I just didn’t want to fail you!

ELIZABETH: Yeah, PSA: they wait until you’re strapped in to tell you to take them off which I thought was unfair. Lucky you were there, because I had NO suitable pockets.

JENN: Yeah, that’s information that would’ve proven useful earlier.But I DID NOT lose your glasses on Kingda Ka, and all was well!

ELIZABETH: It was! The ride is very short, because after the spiral drop, it’s really just slowing down.

JENN: Yeah, that’s my one complaint – I’d say actually ride time is somewhere in the area of 20 seconds.

ELIZABETH: So it’s worth it for one ride, but I wouldn’t wait multiple times for it in one day

JENN: Indeed. I think the only other thing we rode was the Houdini ride? Which had an interesting premise but no follow through.

ELIZABETH: Ah yes, I was hoping for something like a dark ride.

JENN: There’s a pretty good pre-show where you’re supposed to be performing a seance for Houdini. Then in the actual ride area it turns out to be nothing more than one of those rotating houses that make it look like you’re spinning upside down.A dark ride would’ve been way better. A shame – the idea has promise. As it is, though: skip.

Where does that leave us? Food was lackluster. Edible but kinda on the level of your average middle school cafeteria.

ELIZABETH: Mmm, yes, the only interesting thing was the caramel apple funnel cake sundae.

JENN: Which was delicious, but WOAH. I’m all set on funnel cake for the near future.

ELIZABETH: Yeah… I think I was still digesting it 24 hours later.

JENN: Basically there is nothing gourmet happening here. Fair food. Decent fair food, sure, but that’s about all you’re gonna get so be prepared.

Another point: HOLY LINE-JUMPING, BATMAN.

ELIZABETH: YES. I’ve never seen so much in my life.

JENN: I don’t think we stood in a single line that wasn’t plagued by anywhere from one to three separate people/groups “catching up to their party.” GET YOUR PARTY TOGETHER BEFORE YOU ENTER. And for the record, NONE of these were small children who may have needed a bathroom break.

ELIZABETH: Grown adults/teenagers, always.

JENN: Technically this is against park rules, but I only saw it enforced once.

Any other thoughts? I’d say Six Flags Great Adventure is by no means worth a special trip. This is NOT Walt Disney World, for a wide variety of reasons that should be evident from the above.

But if you’re in the area and have some time, go for it. Though only if you like roller coasters. If you don’t, there’s very little for you here. Or, wait. The safari might be worth your time if you don’t like coasters. Hopefully you like both!

ELIZABETH: I agree. We didn’t go on many of the other rides, but then again there weren’t very many that weren’t kiddy things.

Well I think that wraps it up!

JENN: Indeed! Thanks for swinging by in the metaphorical sense! Hopefully we’ll go on another adventure soon!

Don’t forget, you can follow us on Twitter @fairestrunofall. To see how our training is going, check out Jenn’s dailymile here and Moon’s dailymile here. If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or email us at fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!

In Which Jenn & Elizabeth Go to Busch Gardens Williamsburg

Hooray! Elizabeth is here again to help me with another review!

JENN: A round of applause for my faithful guest judge, Interplanetary Explorer Extraordinaire Elizabeth!

ELIZABETH: I dunno about interplanetary: after watching Gravity I don’t think I ever want to go out there.

JENN: Haha, good call.

ELIZABETH: I have my moments.

JENN: So, a few weeks ago Elizabeth and I got a great deal on Busch Gardens Williamsburg tickets. This was the good news. The bad news was that the only remaining days of the season were all Howl-o-Scream days. O.o

Busch Gardens does not do Halloween Disney-style. It does Halloween SCARY-style.

ELIZABETH: It’s what the people want, apparently. I thought it was pretty clever how they had the park separated into different themes. How many were there? Four?

JENN: Four or five, I believe.

ELIZABETH: Yeah. They had vampires, demons, pirates… Victorian zombies… you know, the usual. I think there may have been a few vampires.

JENN: The scare zones were very impressively rendered, especially, to my mind, the demon zone in France.

ELIZABETH: Yeah, that was pretty cool. They pretty much had a rave going. If your timing was right/wrong you couldn’t see ANYTHING.

JENN: The demon actors even got a few people with the help of the fog machines. By “get” I of course mean “startle,” not actually steal anyone’s soul.

ELIZABETH:  At least, we didn’t SEE any soul-stealing. But they didn’t start sending people out to actually scare you until 6PM.

JENN: The pirate scare zone was my favorite.

ELIZABETH:
Where was it we saw the guy with the bungee-chord thing? That would bungee out into the path from behind a tree? Was he one of the pirates?

JENN: Yes!

ELIZABETH: That was pure genius.  I wish I had that job.

JENN: They were also some of the most confrontational even while, to me, being the least scary.

ELIZABETH: Yeah, they stopped us a couple of times going over the bridge.  I don’t think we got the one guy to ever say anything.

JENN: Unlike your Victorian zombie friend!

ELIZABETH: That poor guy. He seemed to be a good sport about it, though.

JENN: A scare actor in the Jack the Ripper scare zone in the England part of the park started stalking Elizabeth, so we just chattered at him until he eventually broke character. By the end he was trying on my sunglasses to see if he could perfect Elizabeth’s over-the-glasses stare. Which he couldn’t, of course. Ya gotta be part of her family to nail it.

ELIZABETH: It was a pretty good imitation, but the fact that they were sunglasses detracted a bit, I think. Especially since they clashed with the rest of his costume.

JENN: I fear I came unprepared.

ELIZABETH: FOR SHAME!

JENN: ALWAYS BRING REGULAR GLASSES FOR THE VICTORIAN ZOMBIES. Write that down, everyone.

ELIZABETH: It’s important!

JENN: We caught all the Howl-o-Scream shows, which thankfully were completely harmless. Das Festhaus in the Germany portion of the park featured a sort of cabaret song-and-dance show populated by undead performers.

ELIZABETH:  I liked the announcer at the Festhaus. But the adult-themed one in the Abbey Stone Theater in Ireland was pretty cheesy.

JENN: Yeah, I think that’s the same show from BG Tampa. Fiends got too cheesy for me.

ELIZABETH: It was a little much.  I mostly enjoyed your reactions to their antics.

JENN: SPEEDOS ARE FOR OLYMPIC SWIMMERS. If you are NOT swimming in a competitive sport, DO NOT WEAR A SPEEDO. And above all, DO NOT WEAR ONE ON STAGE IN A CROWDED THEATER.

[To clarify: The
Fiends show ends with a “monster” played by a hot guy who ends up ripping off all his clothes except a speedo. Which proves that Jenn will complain about anything. Now get off her lawn!]

ELIZABETH: Well I mean, clearly he was meant to be eye candy.  You gotta show off the goods.

JENN: I don’t care how hot you are; if you’re out in public PUT ON SOME BOXERS AT LEAST, JEEZ. Harrumph. Harrumph, I say!

ELIZABETH: Ha!

JENN: I think I liked Dig It Up the best of all the shows; it was performed in the amphitheater in the Italy section of the park. There were a couple dancers, but mostly the musicians in this one took center stage, dressed as museum denizens. I don’t mean the musicians were dressed like workers – rather, they were dressed like Egyptians and gladiators and cavemen.

Mind you, that was cheesy too, but the musicians were all really good! (Plus one of the trumpeters was both pretty AND decently clothed.) And it did spark one of my favorite games, Guess Which Members of the Band are Local Music Teachers.

ELIZABETH: My money’s still on the tuba player. The ending was weird though.  I still think it looked like they were depicting an alien ship crashing into earth, which, at that scale, would obliterate all life. I thought it was rather dark, personally.

JENN: You know I like it cynical.

Did we see another show? I feel like we saw another show.

ELIZABETH: Hmmmmm.

JENN: Oh, I think I’m thinking of the predator show!

ELIZABETH: Oh yeah!

JENN: Busch Gardens has a kind of mini wildlife preserve, and they do a predator show with adorable animals!

ELIZABETH: Even the rats were cute!

JENN: Foxes, wolves, a falcon, and the cutest barn owl in the whole entire world. His name is Cupid and he is stupid. I’m not saying it just because it rhymes; it’s also true!

ELIZABETH: You can’t have everything. He did his trick, though!

JENN: He did! Last time we went to BG, about two years ago, he was still in training, so we watched him get confused and lost when attempting to fly around the area. Now he does it like a pro! I wish I’d thought to grab a picture of him.

ELIZABETH: A couple of the kids were asking to pet him at the end.  I can sympathize: he looked so cute!

JENN: We also went through the Lorikeet Glen and looked at the birds there; very very pretty.

Let’s see… we rode Curse of DarKastle, a spookily themed dark ride loosely based off Mad King Ludwig and his Neuschwannstein castle with ghosts and werewolves and such. I had an interesting conversation with one of the ride operators. It went like this:

GUY: [creepy low raspy voice, right in my ear] Imwrngyou.

ME: What?

GUY: [normal voice, smiling] I’m warning you!

ME: Oh, okay!

And then he laughed. I got laughed at a lot that day.

ELIZABETH: You just break the monotony!

JENN: We also rode ALLLL the roller coasters! Because that’s how we do it! Alpengeist and the Loch Ness Monster once each; the former being essentially the Great Bear at Hershey Park (swoopy and twisty) and the latter being old and loopy.

ELIZABETH: And then we went on Verbolten, which I hadn’t ridden yet.

JENN: We rode Verbolten twice and OH MY GOD was the first time satisfying. The very first time I rode it back in December (during their Christmastown event) I immediately thought to myself “Elizabeth must ride this!” I mean, at the one bit I was like, “I didn’t even know they could DO that!!!” And then I rode it a bajillion more times.

ELIZABETH:  Shall we give away what happens? Or just say that there’s a surprise?

JENN: I think I’ll put a link to the Wikipedia article here, and people can spoil it if they want to. But seriously, if there’s ANY chance you’ll be riding Verbolten in the future, don’t do it. It’s SO much better when you don’t know what’s coming.

And it’s almost as good when you don’t tell Elizabeth what’s coming, and then she turns to you right after and yells “You jerk! You didn’t tell me about that!”

And then you bounce right there in your seat and laugh and clap!

ELIZABETH: Yeah… I got over it pretty quickly though, as the ride is pretty awesome. And it was better not knowing! Although I should have ben suspicious of the fact that you didn’t gush about exactly what happens on the ride.

JENN:  Some of the finest self-control I have ever exhibited.

ELIZABETH: You should be proud.

JENN: In terms of thrills, it’s probably the least impressive of all the coasters in the park. But in terms of theme, execution, and FUN, it’s probably the best. Kind of Disney-like that way!

ELIZABETH: I was reminded of the Disney coasters, yeah.

JENN: We rode Apollo’s Chariot three times, because that roller coaster is awesome. It has this very free-flowing, up-and-down track that gives you serious airtime.

ELIZABETH: It’s like going over a really steep hill in your car, except better, and multiple times.

JENN: Sadly we were only able to ride Griffon once, but it was GLORIOUS.

ELIZABETH: We waited in the extra long line to be in the front.

JENN: Indeed! Griffon is a dive coaster with a 90 degree drop. They pause the car right before that drop and let you dangle there for a moment to contemplate your fate. Being in the front row for that reason is imperative.

And may I just mention again how incredibly SAFE I felt that whole time? SO SAFE.

ELIZABETH: Whatever do you mean?  Haunted houses are completely safe!  🙂

JENN: This brings us to our final topic: the haunted house. Howl-o-Scream features five. We did one. Because um.

ELIZABETH: I decided that dragging Jenn in without warning was the best strategy, because she never would have gone otherwise.

JENN: See, we had just come out of the Fiends show, and we were discussing what to do next. The 13: Your Number is Up line was right there and (deceptively) didn’t seem to have much line, and I JOKINGLY said “We could do that haunted house” and then Elizabeth was all “OKAY LET’S DO IT” and I was like “?????!”

ELIZABETH: We’ll get her desensitized yet!

JENN: Because guys, before last Friday I had never been in a haunted house in my LIFE. I mean, unless you count Disney’s Haunted Mansion, but there’s no reason why you would. And I didn’t even ride that until I was eighteen.

ELIZABETH: You were overdue.

JENN: Here’s the thing. Several years ago, a coworker of mine decided it would be funny to jump out from around a corner at me. So I threw him on the floor and punched him in the head.

ELIZABETH: Which is why you don’t do that to Jenn. Or alternatively: why she would survive a horror movie.

JENN: I am not a screamer or a clutcher. I am a flighter and a fighter.  I understand these things are frowned upon in most haunted houses.

ELIZABETH: True, but at least you know the scares are coming.

JENN:  I didn’t know a darn thing! 😀

I went through the haunted house as follows: one hand clamped down on Elizabeth’s shoulder so she could lead me seeing eye dog style, with my eyes trained FIRMLY on the ground. And squinting, for good measure.

ELIZABETH: I tried to keep up a running commentary to keep things light.

JENN: Here is what I remember from the haunted house, which was themed to thirteen phobias:

Caskets. Floor. Corner of a hospital bed? Sheets of tarp you had to push through. Creepy little girl voice. Elizabeth saying “Look, a security guard!” (He was dressed normally and looked bored; I liked that.) A stuffed clown hanging from the ceiling. Mirrors on the ground. Rubber snake curtains. A broken mirror. The end!

So any real description of the house will have to come from Elizabeth because I saw practically nothing. It was GREAT. When we exited she had to tell me I could look up again.

ELIZABETH: And she didn’t believe me at first!  Let’s see, there was: death, claustrophobia, doctors, going to bed, mirrors, snakes, insects, clowns, bad luck. What were the others?  I can’t remember, now.  Oh well, you’ll all have to go and figure out the other fears!

JENN: One guy did come out from a small door near the floor and jumped at me, which I thought was very unsportsmanlike of him. He asked me if I was scared yet, so I said “Yes. Thank you.” And then the people behind me laughed and declared it the best response ever. So there’s that.

ELIZABETH: That was pretty awesome. He didn’t seem to know what to do with that.

JENN: Didn’t he? I didn’t really see him. I’m working off peripherals here.

ELIZABETH: Oh, I forgot to list zombies!  There were zombies!

JENN: In the house? When? Totally missed that. Of course!

ELIZABETH: Yeah, they were one of the fears, one of the ones where stuff was hanging fro the ceiling I think. So I think I’m only missing three now.

JENN: Ohh, I remember pushing through “bodies” hanging from the ceiling.

ELIZABETH: There was a lot of that.

JENN: Y’know, it’s funny – none of the phobias were things that particularly scare me on a conceptual level. It’s the prospect of people jumping out at me that gets me all anxious. I was fine with the scare zones! What I need is an intermediate level. A haunted house where you can just walk through and be atmospherically scared. Or at the very least some sort of high sign that makes the actors leave me, personally, alone.

I want to point out again that I laughed my way down the 205 foot vertical drop of Griffon. And I felt so wonderfully SAFE!

Let’s see, are we missing anything? We got the monster cake at lunch! It was green and purple.

ELIZABETH: Yes! Although it was definitely a yellow cake (a good yellow cake, though).

JENN: Cake is awesome.

ELIZABETH: And the Festhaus Sampler was quite good.

JENN: How was your strawberry wine crepe from France?

ELIZABETH: It was delicious!

JENN: All in all, would you want to do Howl-o-Scream again?

ELIZABETH: I would!  It was fun. I’d even try one of the other haunted houses.

JENN: Maybe we can get one of some of our tall guy friends to go so I can hide behind them. Andrew is 6’3″ and Scott is 6’5″, so I think if I could convince them to surround me I’d be in pretty good shape!

ELIZABETH: Ha!

JENN: If they do a pirate house again I think I could survive that.

ELIZABETH: Pirates aren’t as existentially scary as, say, ghosts.

JENN: Precisely.

ELIZABETH: I think that’s actually the first time I’ve stayed at a park for the full twelve hours it was open!

JENN: Well there ya go! As always, thank you for your fabulous commentary. I hope we meet again on many another roller coaster, and the sooner the better!

ELIZABETH: Yes!

Have you been to Busch Gardens Williamsburg? How about Howl-o-Scream? Or maybe something similar? Are you braver than Jenn about haunted houses? (Answer: yes.)

Don’t forget, you can follow us on Twitter @fairestrunofall. To see how our training is going, check out Jenn’s dailymile here and Moon’s dailymile here. If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or email us at fairestrunofall@gmail.com. See ya real soon!

In Which Jenn & Elizabeth Go to Hershey Park

Welcome back to my faithful pinch hitter, Elizabeth!

ELIZABETH: So – we’re going to discuss Hershey Park?

JENN: Yup! Because Disney people tend to be somewhat curious about other parks.

ELIZABETH: What! But how could any other place measure up?

JENN: It couldn’t. We just want to feel smugly superior. Also, roller coasters.

ELIZABETH: Ah, right. I will say that Walt Disney World could do with a few more roller coasters, but that’s personal preference.

JENN: Disney coasters are awesome, but they’re not exactly pushing the boundaries of what the human body can handle.

ELIZABETH: No – all that family friendliness, I suppose.

JENN: But first, some background! Elizabeth’s mom’s company holds an employee appreciation day at Hershey Park every year, and friends of the family are allowed to purchase discounted tickets. Naturally, I glom on to this any year I have the day free. And this year I did!

ELIZABETH: 🙂 It’s a good deal!

JENN: This year was my first time since… 2010, I think?

ELIZABETH: I think so, because I didn’t go last year, and you didn’t go the year before that. It was tragic,
especially since that was the ONE YEAR I actually got everyone there before the park opened. And they were all complaining at me, and I was like, “Jenn would understand!!!” 🙁

JENN: I totally would. ALL THE TIME ROPE DROP!

I don’t think we need to do a full on trip report, since it was just one day and not a particularly complicated one at that, but there are some interesting things about Hershey I think are worth discussion.

ELIZABETH:
Where should we start?

JENN: We’ve been going there for many years – since our middle school orchestra trips – and one thing I find interesting is about the subtle shift in ride type vs. ambiance. The ambiance, I think, has mostly stayed the same, while the rides have gotten more and more scary intense.

ELIZABETH: And I’ve been going even longer: i used to go as a small child because my grandfather’s company had THEIR picnics there. They have definitely emphasized thrill rides more and more.

JENN: This might have been less obvious if the water park portion of the park had been open, but as it was there was little of note to ride that wasn’t a coaster. The Reese’s Xtreme Cup Challenge (a Buzz Lightyear-ish target game dark ride) and a couple basic boardwalk-type rides.

ELIZABETH: How many coasters are there now? Seems like they open a new one every year (not that I’m complaining).

JENN: A lot. Ten, maybe.

ELIZABETH: Yeah. And there are a few kiddie rides and things like the monorail and the kissing tower, but they’re all significantly older than the new rides.

JENN: Definitely. Newness is directly correlated to scariness. I went on two new-ish coasters I’d never ridden before – Fahrenheit and Skyrush – and they were NOT KIDDING AROUND.

ELIZABETH: Especially Skyrush. I finally found my roller coaster match.

JENN: I personally found Fahrenheit to be the more intense of the two, but this might be a good time to mention your Skyrush experience…

ELIZABETH: Ah, yes.

So there are 4 seats across each row. The middle two have foot rests and, being closer to the track, experience the turns less sharply, I suppose. The outside seats (where I sat) allow your feet to dangle and apparently provide extra thrills. Also, the lap restraints don’t include a shoulder component, regardless of where you sit, which adds to the feeling of insecurity.

Anyway, I felt like my head was whipping around for the whole ride, and ended up holding myself back in the seat as hard as possible, without opening my eyes.

JENN: The park also spouts a series of dire warnings leading up to the ride, both in the signs and the announcements. I generally ignore signs, because EVERYTHING has a warning sign, but when they said top speeds would be around 70 mph, I briefly considered asking to be let off. Not because I haven’t gone 70 mph plenty of times, but because I’ve never done so on a coaster with a traditional drop. They’ve all been launch coasters.

ELIZABETH: Yeah! You definitely feel a lot of weightlessness on that one. Not that I was paying attention to much other than my inner voice saying “LET ME OFF!”

JENN: I quelled my fear with the logical reasoning that the two experiences are essentially the same; all that’s changing is the axis. But for a moment I finally understood how Moon feels when we first drag her onto a new thrill ride.

ELIZABETH: Yeah. Poor thing.

I think I might want to ride it again, but in the middle seats, because GOOD GOD.

JENN: I actually wound up really enjoying the experience – possibly because it wasn’t as terrifying as I expected? – but I do need to try an outside seat like you had. We’ll just have to switch.

ELIZABETH: The other interesting thing about Skyrush was that it didn’t go upside down. And they lift you up at an almost 90 degree angle.

JENN: But they really speed you on up the hill, so at least the suspense is minimized.

ELIZABETH: Let’s see, what else about Hershey Park? They have a zoo!

JENN: You get free admission to the adjacent ZooAmerica, which features all North American animals. Just get your hand stamped, walk across a bridge, and there you are.

ELIZABETH: They have wolves! Who seemed very unimpressed with the whole thing

JENN: I rather liked the bears. Black bears are adorable.

ELIZABETH: They are! And we were able to get good views of some bobcats and lynxes, who had the right idea about the day and were napping. It should not be that hot in October.

JENN: It was REALLY warm for awhile there.

Now, about Chocolate World, just outside the main gate. The tour dark ride is free, and there are a couple other experiences like a movie and chocolate tasting that we haven’t tried because they aren’t free. There’s also, of course, lots of chocolate in various forms.

ELIZABETH: Mmmmm, chocolate.

JENN: For those of you who have only recently ridden the Chocolate Tour dark ride, please believe me: THE SINGING COWS WEREN’T ALWAYS THERE.

Interlopers!

ELIZABETH: And the roasting demonstration used to actually be uncomfortably hot, as I remember. But you still get a free chocolate sample at the end!

JENN: And that’s what counts! We got a tiny sample package of Rolos this time around. But of course, the most important part of Chocolate World is dessert.

ELIZABETH: There are so many to chose from!

JENN: I was wildly tempted by all the baked goods they offered in the cafe area (FROSTING), but a milkshake had been calling my name all week. I ate a salad specifically so that I would suffer minimal guilt when killing a magnificent chocolate peanut butter shake.

ELIZABETH: And it was pretty magnificent. A little pricy, but it’s actually good that they keep them kinda small since they’re incredibly filling.

JENN: Yeah, I wasn’t hungry again for another six hours or so. And for me, that’s unheard of!

ELIZABETH: LOL, yes, it could have been a meal unto itself.

JENN: So, Hershey Park takeaways:

ELIZABETH: Go through the Chocolate World ride!

JENN: If you’re uncertain about Skyrush, sit in the middle the first time around. In fact, maybe don’t go if you don’t like strong roller coasters. Poor Megan got all freaked out on The Great Bear and ended up sitting out a bunch of rides. (But ignore her; The Great Bear is AWESOME. Try it!)

ELIZABETH: Yeah, but even then, there are some tamer roller coasters and the water rides would have been fun if they were open.

JENN: So check the schedules!

ELIZABETH: Yep! I think they close in September some time

JENN: And get a milkshake. They’re delicious.

ELIZABETH: Very!

JENN: As always, dear Elisabet, thank you for your gracious blogging assistance!

ELIZABETH: *bows* No problem!

JENN: I hope you’ll come back for a post-Busch Gardens Williamsburg/Howl-O-Scream breakdown?

ELIZABETH: That should be doable. 🙂

JENN: You can share in my triumph or… not… depending on whether or not I brave a haunted house. (I’m just saying, don’t put down money on it…)

ELIZABETH: Haha, I won’t. We’ll see – they’re not my favorite either. Not that I get really scared, exactly, just that I enjoy most other rides a lot more.

JENN: I DO get scared. I assume. I’ve always been too scared to attempt a real haunted house, and therefore can’t be sure how much more scared I get inside them. But we’ve been watching a lot of horror movies lately, so… we shall see! NEXT TIME!

ELIZABETH: WOOOO!

Have you ever been to Hershey Park? What are your thoughts? Did you ride Skyrush? Did you… drink a milkshake?!

Don’t forget, you can follow us on Twitter @fairestrunofall. To see how our training is going, check out Jenn’s dailymile here and Moon’s dailymile here. If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or email us at fairestrunofall@gmail.com. See ya real soon!

The Jenn Method of Haranguing Moon Into Riding Roller Coasters

JENN: Okay, so today’s topic is one that is near and dear to my heart: The Jenn Method for Haranguing Moon Into Riding Roller Coasters.

MOON: NO.

JENN: YES.

MOON: … Okay.

JENN: Annnd that’s it! Thanks everybody for your time.

Nothing a good punch in the face can’t cure.

No, but seriously: First I would like us all to cast our minds back, back, back to 2008, and our very first WDW trip of the modern era. Moon has never been a roller coaster sort of person, but because WDW coasters tend to (mostly) be on the milder side, we (Liz and Megan were with us too) collectively and I promise you GENTLY pressured her into trying things. Because you may as well try things, right?

Well, let’s try a little free association. I’m going to say a phrase, and Moon is going to react to it.
Ready? Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.

MOON: Haaaaaaate. This ride is dangerous. Stay back.

JENN: Yeah. She had a tremendously violent reaction to that one… which none of us understood because it’s Big Thunder and… I mean, it’s Big Thunder. It’s barely a step above the Barnstormer. ] Nevertheless, that was a bust. Space Mountain made you cry but then you said you thought you liked it?

MOON: Tears of triumph?

JENN: And you went on Everest but missed the yeti because you refused to look up. So really I don’t know how well our campaign went, in summer of 2008.

We hadn’t even begun our ascent through the first temple yet.

MOON: Hey, at least I got on it!

JENN: True!

Now flash forward just a bit, about six months later, to December of 2008. Moon and I had gone on a last minute trip, and because it was just the two of us (and/or because I’m a terrible person?) I dragged her back onto Expedition Everest. And so occurred one of my absolute favorite exchanges of all my WDW memories.

We had just completed the last pass through the mountain, escaped the yeti, and were pulling slowly around the corner toward the station.

Moon turned to me and said, in absolute seriousness, “Is the big drop coming?”

To which I replied: “… The ride’s over.”

“Oh. Let’s go again!”

I don’t know. A flip switched or something. I got her onto Everest again. Then we went on Space Mountain three times. Then we went on Splash Mountain I don’t know how many times because she decided she loved it. It was pretty awesome.

Sometimes we just have to stop in the middle of whatever
we’re doing and gaze lovingly into each others’ eyes.

MOON: I blame it on the cool winter (Floridian) air.

JENN: And not the awakening of the lion that is the core of your soul?

MOON: Um… I think at the core of my soul is something more akin to a turtle.

JENN: Now, all of this is very impressive – a non-coaster person developing a fondness for Disney coasters. However, as I mentioned, WDW coasters tend to be on the tamer side. The exception? The Aerosmith Rock ‘n Roller Coaster. Moon, would you like to tell the nice people what you rode last trip?

MOON: Your mom.

JENN: That must’ve been awkward.

MOON: I feel like an Aerosmith pun would be appropriate here, but Jenn can tell you what I think of Aerosmith.

JENN:
But you did it! You rode the beast!

MOON: I did! But, I think I made the ride a little unbearable for the people in front of us, with the screaming. >_> And I can’t tell you how many times I’ve waited through that line with every intention of getting on and then at the last moment, I leave. It’s watching the cars take off into darkness. In my mind it is a car taking off into death.

JENN: My favorite part is about how you thought I was lying to you.

MOON: I cannot be held responsible for anything I said under duress.

JENN: I TOLD you there weren’t any drops. It’s gentle and honest coercion I dole out, I swear!

Moon has now been on almost everything, enjoys most things, and claims she will ride RnR again. But she still puts the kibosh on Big Thunder.

MOON: I did a rather nice picture of the ride, though! Even if I can’t find it. I hated it from a safe distance. 😀

JENN: Haha, that’s what counts! So, when the new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train opens up, will you ride it with me?

MOON: Sure. At least twice. Then I’m OUT.

Don’t forget, you can follow us on Twitter @fairestrunofall. To see how our training is going, check out Jenn’s dailymile here and Moon’s dailymile here. If you have any questions for us, leave a comment or email us at fairestrunofall@gmail.com. See ya real soon!